Randall Completes Hat Trick at Soldier Hollow
SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah (Jan. 8) – Olympian Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who came to town looking to win two national titles, completed a personal “hat trick” Sunday, tying for first in the women's 5K skate race with junior Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT) while James Southam (also Anchorage) successfully defended his men's 10K title.
Randall, who won the sprint gold medal Thursday and the 10K classic technique crown Saturday, deadlocked with Stephen, a 5-foot-1, 108-pound 18-year-old who is doing a post-graduate year at Burke Mountain Academy, in 14:48.7. Completing the podium was Kate Pearson, yet another Anchorage skier.
Stephen, beaming while accepting congratulations from friends and members of the Team Rossignol, said she had no answer for her success this week on the 2002 Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow. She was fourth Tuesday in the 15K mass start skate race, third Saturday in the 10K classic technique, and gold medalist with Randall Sunday in the 5K.
â€œIt’s weird because you just go out and ski, and you finish and you see the results and you don’t really expect it. I just go out and ski and what happens happens,â€ she said. She doesn’t favor one technique or the other – â€œI like them both for different reasons.â€
A former alpine skier, she shifted to cross country while a sophomore at BMA, the first ski academy in the nation and far better known for its alpine racing program. â€œI’d been a runner and I wanted to switch, I wanted it to complement my running but my running ended up complementing my skiing. It was the best decision of my life,â€ she said.
Randall. who skis out of the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club, also had a big smile as she adjusted her Matanuska Maid ski hat promoting an Alaska dairy. â€œI came into the week hoping for two wins, so three is pretty incredible,â€ she said. A 2002 Olympian, she’s assured of a place on the 2006 Olympic Team, which will be announced Jan. 17, based on World Cup, SuperTour and U.S. championships results.
“On the final hill, I was 10 seconds down to Liz, so I'm just glad to have a strong finish…and a tie is a lot of fun,” she said. â€œI mean, it’s almost better than winning alone, so it was a great day.â€
In the men's two-lap 10K, Southam finished in 25:38.2 with Lars Flora (also Anchorage) silver medalist with a time of 26:24.6. Chad Giese (St. Paul, MN) took the bronze medal in 26:35.4.
Southam – cheered by a hefty band of family, including Mom, Dad and fiancee Anne Lee, an environmental scientist in Anchorage – defended the 10K gold medal he won a year ago. â€œSoldier hollow’s my favorite place, pretty much, in the world. I typically ski pretty well here…
â€œI love it – good, big skiing, big hills, fast downhills. It’s nice.â€
A former APU Nordic skier who competed last winter in his first World Championships, Southam said his plan for the day â€œwas to build. I wanted to ski into it. [Saturday in the 15K CL], I went under in a couple of places and paid for it, and today I didn’t want to do that.â€
His plan for the championships, he said, was simple: â€œI wanted to ski solid and I hoped to defend my title. I was sort of coming in with the attitude to get in a good chunk of training before these races and try to ski fast while I’m here. I didn’t train through them [i.e., use them as training vehicles, not necessarily strict competition] but I didn’t peak for â€˜em, either.â€ The plan, he inferred, is to peak during the Olympics; his results this season vritually clinched an Olympic berth for him.
The fastest men’s time was turned in by Ivan Babikov, a Russian living in Canada; he skied the two-lap 10K in 25:38.2. However, U.S. Ski and Snowboard association rules stipulate only U.S. skiers may win U.S. championships medals.
The championships conclude Tuesday with the pursuits – men's 30K (15K CL+15K FR) and women's 20K (10K+10K). Final Olympic Team selections will be announced Jan. 17.
Source: US Ski Team